Chicano Park

Chicano Park is a dazzling park located in the southeast side of Logan Heights in central San Diego. The park is, effectively, under the Coronado Bridge.

Like other parks, this one has a playground, picnic benches, and a beautiful green space. However, most commanding is the colorful murals painted on the pillars and vertical surfaces.

Locals, historians, and art-aficionados see more in Chicano Park than what lies on the surface. The park is in fact a symbol of community empowerment. To this day, Chicano Park represents cultural vitality and endurance.

emilano zapata statue
A bronze statue of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.

The area surrounding Chicano Park is often called Barrio Logan where "barrio" is Spanish for "district" or "area". The community of Barrio Logan consisted predominantly of Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants.

In the late 1800's, Mexicans arrived and settled in the area. The community grew and extended westward to the Pacific Ocean and northward towards San Diego Bay. At its peak, Barrio Logan had over 20 thousand residents. However, it was not to last.

During World War II, naval installations were built at the coastline thereby restricting locals access to the beach. Re-zoning laws established in the 1950's converted Barrio Logan from a residential to
industrial status. This allowed the establishment of junk yards and repair shops which caused noise and pollution. These were not favorable condition for families.

Things got worst: in the 1960's highway I-5 was built right through Barrio Logan. Next, on-ramps and pylons were installed so cars could access the Coronado Bridge. What used to be a thriving community began to unravel and deteriorate.

chicano park
Aerial view, note highways and byways surrounding the park.

chicano park mural

chicano park mural
Painted support structures.
To compensates for the damaged caused by the I-5 and the Coronado bridge, the City Council agreed to create a community park. However, there must have been some mis-communication because in April, 1970, construction workers began to build a Highway Patrol station at the site where the community park was to be located.

Residents and students congregated at the construction site for a peaceful demonstration. Work on the Patrol Station was forced to stop and negotiations began. People of Mexican descent came from surrounding areas such as Los Angeles and Santa Barbara as a show of solidarity. After twelve days of non-violent protest, a Chicano Park Steering Committee was formed to supervise the development of the community park as originally agreed.

On July 1970, a little over $20,000 was allotted for the creation of the Chicano community park. It took many years for the park to evolve and acquire the distinctive look that it has today.

Noteworthy are the murals which cover the pylons supporting the Coronado Bridge. As well, there is a central kiosk similar to those of the Mayan culture. The presence of a central kiosk is characteristic of traditional Mexican communities.

chicano park kiosk

chicano park murals

chicano park murals
A highly decorated overpass
The Murals

The idea to convert pylons into works of art is credited to Salvador Torres who is often referred to as the "architect of the dream". He founded the The Chicano Park Monumental Public Mural Program and was instrumental in seeing the project come to completion.

There are about 50 murals in this park and it is said to have the largest collection of outdoor murals in the United States. Murals continue to be repaired and restored to maintain its initial beauty. Because of the large number of murals and the historic importance of the area, Chicano Park was designated an official historical site in 1980.

chicano park kiosk

Today, an annual cultural festival is held in April featuring Aztec and Mexican folk dancing, music, food, and arts & crafts. The fiesta, called Chicano Park Day, is a symbol of community empowerment and cultural endurance.


This unique park is located off Interstate 5. Take Cesar Chavez Parkway exit, the park is under the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge.